If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have heard about Toronto Hydro Telecom getting into the community wifi broadband business. I for one was surprised to find out that Toronto Hydro had a telecom subsidiary. It turns out, they’re not the only ones.
Also (curiously) absent from any coverage of this plan is mention of UTC Canada, â€œa trade association focused on addressing the critical telecommunications issues for utilities and energy companies in Canada and the providers of telecommunications infrastructure or information technology services.â€?
Remember, these are electrical utilities. A picture is presenting itself of a dormant fibre optic network that has the potential to access almost every telephone pole and/or lamp-post in Southern Ontario. Forgive me for getting myself excited over the prospect of clusters of municipal wifi mesh networks all over the place, but consultant-bloggers need to get out of the house more often.
Is it time to start thinking of broadband as a utility?
It is clear that it is in the public interest to have ubiquitous broadband, and wireless offers a low cost alternative for delivering that last mile. We are long overdue for a proper debate on the topic of the “digital divide”, and this development provides an opening. In disenfranchised communities both inside and outside the city people – kids – do not have access to the single most important technology that is the platform for the knowledge-based economy of the future. I would love to see a GIS map of the city showing the correlation between broadband penetration and average income. Any Regent Park bloggers out there? Arm kids with broadband, inexpensive laptops and provide them with access to video/audio gear and watch a flowering of creative and economic vitality in this city in the years that follow.
And don’t get me started on gun violence and its connection to social and economic exclusion.
Rogers, Telus & Bell may not like this idea, but where is the consensus in the public interest? Telecom is ripe for serious disruption, IMHO.
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